Thursday, November 24, 2005

Campout on concrete

Where the sidewalk ends

Mystery solved! I have a new insight into the surliness of the queue denizens at the Indian Embassy.

You would not belieeeeeeeve the ordeal for getting the Indian visa here. Literally, you must show up at 5 am, preferably 4am, and camp out (!) on the sidewalk in front of the gates. My friend Marcus from Canada brought a sleeping bag at 3AM and stayed there with a thermos of hot water! Then at 6 am someone appears with a list and everyone scrambles to sign it. This list determines the order you will go in at the window. Mind you, the office itself does not open a minute before 9.30.

People who sign up for the list at 6am, for example, might make it to the window by 12 noon just before they shut for lunch. I am serious! 6 is actually too late some say, better to be there by 4 or 5. I came at 7 yesterday and did not even get seen at all! Seven am, ha, what a joke, was the attitude. The Red Cross needs to be out there on the line handing out donuts and coffee! Seriously, it is quite cold here at 4am.

At 12 noon, even if your name is on the list of yet-unseen people, the window slams shut and that's it till tomorrow morning. You have to start over at 4am. And this is just the first visit! In a week's time, you must return during yet another set of special hours to retrieve your papers and hope they are ready.

Back in July, when my friend Diana came to do her Indian visa, it was nothing like this - the place was a ghost town. But this is high tourist season. What a difference a season makes.

My friend Joanne visiting from the Kerala ashram has loaned me her camera. It needs a proper adapter in order to be able to recharge the battery. All digital cameras these days seem to have pain-in-the-asterisk "special" batteries that can't be bought or replaced in just any store, or recharged in a normal recharger. Overspecialization is a rampant disease of modern times.

Today I will get the proper battery for Joanne's camera and go document this entire phenomenon from 3am onwards for the blog. I have never seen anything like it at a government office , you would think they were camping for Greatful Dead tickets, or the new Star Wars movie. Or waiting for food relief packets from Hurricane Katrina.

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